Scots dentists urged to consider facial pain as symptom of abuse

A leading Scottish oral surgeon wants dentists to use signs of facial pain as a reason to investigate potential domestic abuse
A leading Scottish oral surgeon wants dentists to use signs of facial pain as a reason to investigate potential domestic abuse
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One of Scotland’s leading oral surgeons and the founder of Medics Against Violence has highlighted a link between facial pain and domestic abuse.

Dr Christine Goodall, a senior lecturer in oral surgery at the University of Glasgow, is urging dentists to treat patients who present with this type of pain, with no obvious bruising, as potential victims.

The doctor addressed an audience at The British Society for Oral Medicine’s annual conference held at the University of Dundee yesterday.

In her talk titled “Facial Pain and Violence: Who do you think you’re looking at?” Dr Goodall referred to a previous study that showed 69 per cent of people who saw a dentist with chronic face pain, for which there was no identifiable cause had either been victims of domestic abuse or had been raped, sexually assaulted or had suffered childhood sexual abuse.

Dr Goodall said that facial pain was an indicator of an underlying issue and was also prevalent in patients who had recently suffered a bereavement or were struggling to cope with life.

She said: “Largely what I spoke about was domestic abuse - the concept that it is something we should all be looking out for in terms of health but also that the symptoms that people present with may not always be what you expect.

“So, quite a number of people turn up with bruises on their faces and black eyes and that is fairly obvious – I don’t think any of us would miss that.

“But, what other people will turn up with when they’re living with a chronically violent or controlling situation is that they’ll develop symptoms of other sorts.

“A number of patients will for example turn up [at the dentist] having developed chronic facial pain and I spoke to the oral medicine people about the need for them to look behind that and consider why patients are having those symptoms and not to just reach for the prescription pad.”

Dr Goodall who worked in hospitals around Glasgow during the knife crime epidemic a decade ago and treated many victims of violence, founded Medics against Violence, a universally recognised Scottish healthcare charity that works alongside the World Health Organisation’s Violence Prevention Alliance.